BMW presented the racing version of the new BMW M3 at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show. Powered by a 485 bhp eight cylinder engine, this impressive race car has been designed to compete in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) beginning in 2009. The car is based on the fourth generation of the BMW M3, the high-performance sports car produced by BMW M GmbH.
BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen says: "With the sporting genes of the production BMW M3 being clearly evident, developing a racing version of the car was the next logical step. The fact that the road-going vehicle is fitted with a V8 engine as standard provided us with an ideal base. However, the BMW M3 is more than a race car, it has achieved legendary status amongst race fans across the globe. I am convinced that this unique story of the BMW M3 racing cars will now be expanded upon by the addition of further chapters."
BMW`s 2009 entry into the American Le Mans Series will be driven by a partnership between BMW of North America, LLC and Rahal Letterman Racing, co-owned by US motorsport legend Bobby Rahal.
"We are very pleased to be returning to the American Le Mans Series with our latest generation BMW M3," states Tom Purves, Chairman and CEO, BMW of North America. "Sports car racing has been part of BMW of North America`s history practically from day one. Just two weeks after the company was incorporated in March 1975, a BMW CSL won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. We are confident that the fourth generation M3 will continue the legacy of its two predecessors which combined to win six manufacturer`s championships over nine seasons in US sports car racing. As it has been in the past we believe the ALMS is the ideal venue to showcase the potential of the newest BMW M3."
Echoing that sentiment Bobby Rahal adds, "BMW has an illustrious racing heritage. Rahal Letterman Racing is eagerly anticipating, not only becoming part of that heritage, but helping to enhance it. Our dedication to this project will be without equal and we look forward to racing at the front of the grid with BMW in the years to come."
Martin Birkmann, Motorsports Manager, BMW of North America, adds: "We are very excited to announce our return to the American Le Mans Series with the 4th generation M3 at the same time as the road car hits the BMW showrooms. We are also excited about our partnership with Rahal Letterman Racing. The ALMS offers racing where we can compete against the finest and most renowned automotive brands from Europe and the US. Motorsport is deeply ingrained in the BMW DNA and we are pleased to partner with an organization which shares that same heritage. Rahal Letterman Racing is the perfect partner to be behind the wheel of our new BMW M3 racing effort."
The BMW M3 Race Version: Sportiness personified
In the course of developing the race version of the BMW M3, BMW`s engineers were faced with an ambitious task: to improve upon the sportiness of an already sporting car. A better base would, though, be difficult to find. In standard form the vehicle delivers powerful dynamics and sporting aesthetics. Thanks to an eight cylinder engine producing 414 bhp, BMW`s customers are provided with a unique driving experience.
Those engine blocks, cast in BMW`s light alloy foundry in Landshut - the very source of BMW`s Formula One castings - selected for race duty need to withstand even more power: the BMW P65 race engine delivers 485 bhp.
In order to enable the BMW M3 to make full use of this performance on the race circuit, the experts in Munich have not concentrated solely on the engine, but have race-tuned the chassis as well. The race version of the BMW M3 is wider and significantly lighter than its production equivalent, enabling it to perfectly transmit the power of its V8 to the track. Widespread use of carbon-reinforced plastic (CRP) provides proof of substantial weight reduction. As with the production version, the race car`s roof is manufactured from this high-tech material.
The race version of the BMW M3 is clearly aimed at the top echelon of motorsport. As such, it is no surprise to discover that in the course of its development, begun in mid-2007, numerous Formula One techniques were applied. These include computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and wind tunnel analyses, both of which have ensured the best possible aerodynamic package for the BMW M3.
Intelligent control systems have been incorporated throughout the BMW M3. The POWER400 control unit actuates all the accessories fitted to the car, such as lights, wipers, etc., via two bus systems. Traditional relays and fuses are thus eliminated, ensuring considerable weight saving, improved reliability and ease of application. The functions of the BMW P65 engine are managed by an ECU 408 electronic control unit, developed in-house by BMW Motorsport. The software and applications, too, have been developed by the experts in Munich.
An intensive test program, during which the performance of the race car will be honed by BMW Motorsport, looms for the BMW M3 over the coming months. Development drivers will be BMW works drivers Andy Priaulx (GBR), Jörg Müller (GER) and Augusto Farfus (BRA), currently racing in the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC). The aim is, after all, for the BMW M3 to be an immediate front-runner upon its comeback to the American Le Mans Series.
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